New Rochelle Schools Union Disputes Middle School Instructional Hours Controversy

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees (F.U.S.E.) is disputing findings by lawyers at Ingerman Smith, the firm that replaced Jeff Kehl and Bond, Schoeneck & King.

F.U.S.E. is the the NYSUT chapter that represents pedagogical staff such as teachers and classroom aides and service related professionals such as custodians and security guards.

“Recently, the newly hired law firm for the School District informed district administrators and the Board of Education that, based on their analysis of the Commissioner’s Regulations, the “instructional time” for grades 7 and 8 at both of our middle schools fails to meet the newly adopted minimum requirements of 990 hours per year.,” said F.U.S.E. Martin Daly.

“The union, after conducting its own assessment of the facts at hand and the clear language of the regulations, firmly disagrees with the conclusions offered by district’s counsel,” said Daly.

Daly along with Cheryl Smith and Tom Casey, NYSUT Labor Relations Specialists is meeting today with district administrators and the district’s attorney.

“We will discuss this issues and work toward a resolution,” said Daly.

According to Smith and Casey, “New York State Education Department regulations (State Aid Section 175.5 B) provide a definition of “Instructional hours”. Those hours may include “…periods of time during which students are engaged in supervised study activities, including completing homework and/or the review of homework.” Thus it is the union’s position that the “period 9” extra help periods in each school should be part of the calculation for “instructional hours.” The extra help periods provide time for individual or small group instruction that provides an opportunity for homework support, remediation, enrichment, test supervised study.”

“The school district is asserting that period 9 cannot be considered as “instructional time” since students are not mandated or scheduled for the extra help sessions. However, that requirement is not made explicit anywhere in the Commissioner’s Regulation, and the district has been thus far unable to produce any documentation from SED that clarifies the requirements in a way that would support their position. Moreover, the “instructional hours” at our high school are calculated by when instruction is available, not if students are individually scheduled throughout the day. Therefore, since the NYSED regulations group 7-12 together without distinction, the hours must be calculated using the same methodology.”

“The district’s analysis creates a distinction between grades 7- 8 and grades 9-12 that does NOT exist in the regulations.”

“FUSE has consulted with NYSUT Research and Educational Services team in Albany and they have concurred with our analysis. NYSUT, also, sent us the following guidance which they have been sharing with other NYSUT locals:”

While we are still awaiting field guidance from the Department it is our understanding that “extended time” or an additional “period” (in your case period 9) that is required contractual time for teachers to provide opportunities for students to receive additional help, that is open to all students but student attendance is not required would count as instructional time. According to Section 175.5, an instructional hour is defined as an hour, or fraction of an hour, during which students receive instruction from a certified teacher, or a period of time where students are doing supervised study activities such as completing or reviewing homework…

“Our union is concerned that the district’s seemingly inaccurate analysis of instructional hours for grades 7 and 8 will cost the district — and ultimately taxpayers a substantial loss of funding,” said Daly. “FUSE believes that the school district is in full compliance with NYSED mandated instructional hours.”

“Our union will be working tirelessly to ensure that our schools — and our students — receive the full funding to which they are entitled,” said Daly.